A closer look at the IRS Direct File pilot

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IRS is rolling out a new Direct File pilot – find out about this new service, how we are introducing it and some of the features.

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By The Direct File Team
CL-23-04, December 20, 2023

Hello from the Direct File team. As you might have heard, the IRS is piloting a new tax filing service during the upcoming filing season called Direct File that will allow eligible taxpayers to file their taxes online, for free, directly with the IRS. We want to take this opportunity to tell you more about this new pilot, how we are rolling it out, and some of its features.

For some, filing a tax return can be stressful, time consuming and complex. Direct File simplifies the experience to deliver the service you expect and deserve as a taxpayer.

First, we want to be clear – the Direct File pilot is just another option for filing your taxes. No one is required to use Direct File, and it does not replace any of the existing options for filing. You can read about the Direct File pilot, its scope and participating states for 2024 to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Every tax return is as unique as the person or family filing it. Everyone should choose the filing option that is best for them. If the 2024 Direct File pilot is not the right fit, simply choose another option to file your return, such as other free filing options, a tax professional, or paid commercial tax software.

The IRS wants you to file a timely, complete, and accurate tax return to meet your tax obligations and receive the credits and benefits you’re entitled to – the method you use is your choice.

Understanding Direct File

Direct File is built in-house at the IRS by a team of tax experts, product managers, software engineers, designers, and data scientists. The IRS is collaborating with the U.S. Digital Service and 18F, government teams that specialize in supporting federal agencies to develop new digital services like Direct File. Our cross-agency team has the right subject matter and technical expertise to create this pioneering free IRS tax-filing tool.

We’re building Direct File with taxpayers – not just for taxpayers. And we’re continuously testing it with taxpayers like you to ensure it’s as easy to understand and use as possible.

There is no software to buy or install. It’s mobile-friendly, which means it will work as well on a phone or tablet as it does on a computer. It’s available in English and Spanish, easy to use, secure, accessible, and free.

Direct File walks you through the processes of preparing your return. You’ll follow a step-by-step checklist that guides you through the filing process and you can easily see your progress. When you finish, Direct File shows you a clear summary of your 2023 federal taxes from the information you entered. When you submit your return, Direct File will send email confirmation of the submission, and another email when the IRS accepts your return for processing.

We’ve placed information icons on each screen to help answer common questions, but if you still need help, live assistance is available directly from an IRS Direct File customer service representative. The IRS processes Direct File returns the same way it does for all electronically filed returns, and we do not, and would not, give preferential treatment to any tax filing method, including Direct File.

We’re starting small to get it right

Following software launch best practice, we’re starting the pilot with a limited number of people to fully test the new service and continuously improve the taxpayer experience. As the 2024 filing season progresses, we expect to gradually increase the number of taxpayers who can use the program. Using a phased approach like this means that the pilot will not be available to all eligible taxpayers immediately when the IRS begins accepting federal tax returns in early 2024.

We will open successive phases of the pilot when we confirm the service is operating successfully. We’ll provide updates on directfile.irs.gov where you can also find more information on pilot eligibility.

Getting help from Direct File customer support

We realize that taxpayers may have questions about how to use any tax software, including Direct File. If you need help while you’re filing your return in Direct File, real-time live chat support from an IRS customer service representative will be available, with an option for a follow up phone call from an IRS assistor where needed.

Direct File customer service representatives will provide technical support and provide basic clarification of tax law related to the tax scope of Direct File, in both English and Spanish. The assistors will not have access to your IRS account data. Any questions or issues that are not directly related to Direct File will be routed to the regular IRS support channels.

The Direct File customer support function is separate from other IRS customer support functions, including our toll-free lines. This means that trained, specialized support will be available if you need help using the Direct File tool, while limiting demand on regular IRS customer support during the filing season.

Direct File scope and eligibility

The Direct File pilot is limited to taxpayers reporting only certain types of income and claiming limited credits and deductions. You can learn more about Direct File’s scope at directfile.irs.gov.

The Direct File pilot is available to eligible taxpayers residing in Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. States with an income tax that indicated they had the capability and resources available to develop a state tax filing solution, or already have one ready to integrate, are participating in the pilot as well as most states without state income taxes. Many states that are not participating this year have already indicated interest for potential future years.

Identity verification and sign-in services

The IRS takes seriously its obligation to protect taxpayer data and prevent identity theft in all aspects of our work, and follows all applicable laws, regulations, and rules governing the protection of taxpayer data and federal government information systems. The Direct File pilot is no different. Because Direct File will allow a taxpayer to file their federal tax return directly with the IRS, government standards require that we have a high degree of confidence in the taxpayer’s identity.

To use Direct File, eligible taxpayers will need to create an account and verify their identity. For this pilot, the only credential service provider (CSP) currently available to the IRS that meets the Identity Assurance Level 2 (IAL2) standard for identity verification and sign-in services, as set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is ID.me. As a result, for this filing season’s pilot, taxpayers will need to authenticate using ID.me to use Direct File. The Direct File pilot will join existing IRS IAL2 products using ID.me, including Online Account and Get Transcript Online. Taxpayers may choose to verify their identity via live chat from the outset, bypassing automated biometric collection. Taxpayers who already have an IRS online account, or an ID.me account from a state government or federal agency that uses the same NIST IAL2 standard can sign in without verifying their identity again. New users will have to create an account.

If the 2024 pilot is successful and a decision is made to continue Direct File in future years, we are committed to evaluating additional public and private options to ensure that future iterations of Direct File allow taxpayers the choice of how they authenticate their identity.

More to come

We’re eager to introduce the Direct File pilot in 2024. We’re putting the finishing touches on the product and will keep you up to date as filing season grows near.

We invite you to continue to follow our progress as we approach tax filing season, and we hope you’ll consider whether Direct File could be the right tax filing option for you and your family.

The Direct File Team

This post has been updated.

IRS Direct File

The Direct File pilot is built in-house at the IRS by a team of tax experts, product managers, software engineers, designers, and data scientists. The IRS is collaborating with the U.S. Digital Service and 18F, government teams that specialize in supporting federal agencies to develop new digital services like Direct File.


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